88 PLACES THAT ROCK
The Wombat State Forest, a short drive from Melbourne, has about 100 kilometres of trail – most of it singletrack – snaking through enchanted native forest of tree ferns and tall eucalypts
Close to the charming tourist town of Woodend and attractions like the wineries of the Macedon and Daylesford regions, antique shops, open gardens, and of course the mysterious Hanging Rock, there are plenty of excuses to pack the family up for the weekend and visit. Just don’t forget your bike.
The Wombat State Forest was logged intermittently from the gold-rush of the mid-1800s until the Ash Wednesday fires burnt most of it in 1983. Many of the fire roads and tracks follow old logging routes and the singletrack is maintained by a group of community volunteers.
The trails here are pure crosscountry. Twisting through the trees, they take you deep into the bush, so make sure you’ve got plenty of water and food on you. Keep an eye out for plentiful native bird life, wallabies and kangaroos, an alarming variety of fungi (not for eating) and, of course, if you’re lucky, a wombat hole or two. You’ll encounter plenty of log rollovers, rickety timber bridges, roots, branches, jumps and berms, the odd rock or two, and lots and lots of corners.
The Wombat trails are less than one hour’s drive from Melbourne and about 35 minutes from Tullamarine Airport, so the easiest way to reach them are via that city. It is possible to drive from Canberra and Sydney. Allow seven and nine hours respectively.
If you’re based in Melbourne it’s simple to pop your bike on the train and alight at Woodend station which, luck would have it, is just across the road from Woodend Cycles. From the railway station it’s a pleasant roll to the trails. Turn left down Ashbourne Road, then do a dogleg left at Dafter Road and right into Boldiston Road – the trailhead carpark is at the intersection with Taylor road. A fantastic trail map is available at wombatmtb.com.au.
The trails in and around the Wombat State Forest are a diverse mix of flowing, hardpack singletrack and pine forest singletrack, as well as some well-maintained fire roads and rougher four-wheel drive tracks. The sinewy tracks feature timber
bridges and lots of logs, and are occasionally rutted, but generally suit cross-country riders of all levels, and there aren’t any insurmountable climbs.
The usual: Spares, plenty of food and drink, a phone, and preferably a map. Trails are densely packed and can get confusing. Although they’re quite well marked in places, not all trails are – make sure you know your way out!
There’s loads of singletrack out there. Link it up with fire road and you can ride anywhere up to 100km. If you’re looking for a long one, check out the route for the ‘Wombat100’ marathon race held here every year at wombat100.com.au.
There are plenty of lovely places to stay in Woodend, from B&Bs to caravan parks, as well as lots of places to eat and drink. AMB enjoyed the food and coffee at Maloa House, as well as their warm welcome on a chilly day.
If you want to make a weekend of it and have a big group, Cammeray Waters Conference Centre (www.cammeraywaters. com.au) is right in the middle of the forest, but generally only take large bookings.
BEST TIME OF YEAR
You’ll be able to enjoy the Wombat trails year-round, but it can get very cold down there in winter, so rug up or stick to the warmer months, from about November to March, although watch the heat when you’re out in summer and be wary of the impact your bike has on these precious trails if riding in the wet.
WHILE IN THE AREA
After you’ve checked out Woodend for some great cafes and restaurants, visit Hanging Rock and Mt Macedon for some spooky side trips into the Aussie bush – there’s plenty of brilliant road riding around these spectacular natural areas, too. The area boasts some beautiful open gardens and endless touring on quiet country roads, whether by car or bike. The Macedon Ranges and Daylesford regions have an abundance of activities to reward long hours on the bike, including winery tours, gourmet farm produce and markets, arts and crafts, and day spas.
LOCAL BIKE SHOPS
Woodend Cycles are a great local shop with lots of trail knowledge and is just across the road from the railway station woodendcycles.com.au.
LOCAL CLUB CONTACTS
Wombat Mountain Bike Club are actively maintaining and riding the trails and have lots of info on their site wombatmtb.com.au.
The Wombat100 marathon rolls into the forest every year in April, and the Wombat Mountain Bike Club holds the Wombat24 here late in the year. Local club races and social rides are also regular events and are a great introduction to the trails. Check wombatmtb.com.au for more info.